A Collection of Doves

This week, I had originally planned on posting a cemetery recipe for Red Lantern Cheese dip, from the gravestone of Debra Ann Nelson. But, I had some issues finding the correct ingredients and the recipe didn’t turn out as expected. So I will continue my hunt for the elusive ingredients. 

Instead, this week I will share a collection of Dove’s. If you have been following this blog for a little while, you may have noticed that I sometimes like to share collections of my favorite photos of some of the cemetery symbols I find on my cemetery walks. I have been photographing cemeteries for over 15 years, and in that time I have noticed some repetition of certain symbols and motifs. I find cemetery symbolism so interesting and love looking at what the different variations of a symbol mean.

Doves are not as common a symbol as lambs in Northern Ontario, but they represent similar ideas. Doves commonly are a symbol of peace, but when used in funerary art, they also represent innocence and the Holy Spirit. Doves may appear in many forms, such as sculpture or bas-relief. There are also different variations of doves, and each carries additional meaning.

Sometimes a dove may be depicted carrying something in its mouth. A dove with an olive branch in its mouth may represent peace. This symbolism also can be traced to Ancient Greece. A dove carrying a broken flower bud in its mouth often symbolizes a life cut short. 

The position and angle of the dove may have some significance as well. A dove flying downward is thought to represent the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven.

Another variation of a dove you might find, is a dove that looks like it might be dead. A dead dove sadly represents a life cut short. This variation may also be found lying in front of, or on top of a tree stump; which is also a symbol of a life cut short.

Have you come across a different variation of this symbol? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading!


References:

  1. Understanding Cemetery Symbols: A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards by Tui Snider
  2. Stories in Stone: The Complete Guide to Cemetery Symbolism by Douglas Keister

Stone Stories – The Dyer Memorial

Winter is slowly starting to tighten its grip on us here in Northern Ontario. My road trips are done for the year, now that it’s getting colder and the snow is getting deeper. I like to take this time to sort through my photos, update my photography portfolios and upload images to Find a Grave. I also like to reminisce on all the cemeteries I have visited during the year. Today, I wanted to share my experience visiting the Dyer Memorial Nature Reserve.

Every October I take some time off to enjoy the crispy weather and changing colors in Ontario. Hiking and visiting cemeteries in the fall are my absolute favorite. This past October, my mother, and hiking buddy visited Huntsville to do some leaf peeping and hiking with some cemetery visits along the way. One of the must-do’s on this trip was visiting the Dyer Memorial. I had read online that this memorial site and nature reserve was a monument of love, in memory of a loving Wife. When we arrived at the site, I was surprised to find out that the Dyer Memorial is also the final resting place of Betsy and Clifton Dyer.

This beautiful monument was erected in 1956 by Clifton G. Dyer, a Detroit lawyer, for his wife Betsy Browne Dyer.1 It sits about 10 minutes outside of Huntsville, in the small hamlet of Williamsport. They were frequent visitors to the area, having first honeymooned in the Muskokas in 1916. They loved the outdoors and would often tent or stay in a cabin above the Big East River, close to the spot where the memorial now sits. In the 1940s they had a permanent cottage built and visited every summer.2 Betsy passed away in 1956, and Clifton, in his mourning, had the memorial built so Betsy could be laid to rest in the place she loved so much.1 Her ashes were placed in a copper urn at the top of the memorial.2 Clifton passed away 3 years later, and his ashes were also placed within the monument.1  

The road to the monument site is not paved and snakes its way up to a small car park area. There is some signage but it might be missed if you’re not paying close attention. The trail from the car park to the monument doesn’t seem like much, but once you turn the corner on the flagstone path and see the monument come into view, it’s quite impressive.

The obelisk stretches high into the sky, with a plaque near the top that reads “Dyer”. The monument is surrounded by footpaths leading every which way around the monument. Some small wooden bridges extend over a small pond with trails that curve around small clumps of trees. The lone monument stands like a sentinel in the center of it all. 

At the base of the monument there is a plaque that reads:  

“ERECTED IN FOND MEMORY OF / BETSY BROWNE DYER / 1884-1956 / BY HER HUSBAND / CLIFTON G. DYER / 1885-1959 / AS A PERMANENT TRIBUTE TO HER FOR THE NEVER-FAILING / AID, ENCOURAGEMENT AND INSPIRATION WHICH SHE / CONTRIBUTED TO THEIR MARRIED CAREER AND AS A / FINAL RESTING PLACE FOR THEIR ASHES. / An Affectionate, Loyal and Understanding Wife is Life’s Greatest Gift”

We were the only ones on the grounds when we visited, so we took our time to explore the area. There was no trail map to show how far the trails went, so we kept our bearings and didn’t stray too far from the monument. We crossed a small bridge and wandered around the small pond, reflecting the bright fall colors. We also explored a small clump of trees on the other side of the monument, again deciding to stay close to the stone obelisk and not walk too far down the trails. 

I circled the obelisk a few times, in awe of its stature and what it represents. It was first built as a loving tribute but now stands as a memorial to both Husband and Wife.

It’s lovely to see this site so well taken care of, not just the memorial, but also the surrounding trails. I love the idea that this nature reserve preserves the area so others can experience the beauty of it, just as the Dyers did in their lifetimes. 

Thanks for reading!

References: 

  1. Muskoka’s Hidden Gems – Dyer Memorial, Huntsville | CLRM
  2. Dyer Memorial | Huntsville Adventures

A Collection of Tree Stones

While wandering a cemetery, have you ever come across a monument that is shaped and textured to look like a tree? Today, I want to take a closer look at these types of grave markers, called tree stones. Although they are a bit harder to come by in Northern Ontario, you can find them, and they are usually very easy to spot since they are so unique!

Tree stones are often used as memorials for members of the Woodmen of the World, a fraternal organization. This fraternal order was started in 1890, and membership included those who worked in particularly dangerous professions. The organization offered health insurance and death benefits to its members, which included a tree stone tombstone.1

Woodmen of the World tree stones, often bare the Woodmen crest, as well the tools of the trades like an axe and sledgehammer, representing the works of man. You may also find other symbols on tree stones like ivy or doves, representing friendship and peace, respectively.

The severed branches or tree stump of a tree stone, Woodmen of the World or otherwise, often represents a life cut short. We often see this combined with other symbolism, like a lamb or dove laying in front of a stump. Lambs and doves are often found on the graves of small children, symbolizing innocence and purity.

Sometimes the number of logs on a tree stone can be symbolic of the number of children the deceased had. A tree stone can also be seen as a representation of the tree of life, symbolizing knowledge. 

Have you ever come across a tree stone? Or maybe a Woodmen of the world memorial? I would love to hear about your finds, in the comments. 

Thanks for reading! 


References:

  1. Understanding Cemetery Symbols: A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards by Tui Snider

A Collection of Crosses

Crosses have to be the most easily recognizable and common symbol found in cemeteries and funerary art. There are so many variations of this Christian religious symbol. Since crosses are so common, you may think if you have seen one, you’ve seen them all—but I would beg to differ!

Today I wanted to take a closer look at this funerary symbol and share some of the many crosses I have photographed over the years.

First off, let’s look at the difference between a cross and a crucifix, as they are not the same thing. A crucifix shows the body of Jesus nailed to it, while a cross does not.

A Latin cross is probably the most common cross found in cemeteries. This cross has no embellishments. It is sometimes called a Protestant cross, because it can represent Jesus as risen, instead of focusing on his suffering on the cross.

A Botonee cross has a trefoil, three lobes, at each end that symbolizes the holy trinity.

A Celtic cross is easily recognizable. It usually has a Celtic knot pattern engraved on it and also includes a nimbus, a distinctive circle that represents the union of heaven and earth. These crosses are often found at the graves of those with Irish heritage.

In the example below you can also see the letters IHS in the center. This is sometimes called a Christogram. There are a couple of different theories about what the letters IHS stand for. One theory is that it is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase “in hoc signs vines” (In this sign you will conquer), another line of thought is that it’s an abbreviation of the Latin phrase “Jesus Hominum Salvator” (Jesus, Saviour of Men). According to Doug Keister’s book Stories in Stone: A field guide to cemetery symbolism and iconography, these letters are the first three letters of Jesus’ name using the Greek alphabet.

A Congé cross is a variation of the Latin cross, where the ends of the arms flare out slightly.

A Glory cross, sometimes called a Rayed cross, has rays emanating from its center that symbolize the glory of God.

Below is an example of an Eastern crucifix on a white Latin cross. The Eastern cross is easily recognizable by its two horizontal cross bars, and one slanted one. This cross is a symbol of Eastern Orthodox religions. This one would be considered a crucifix, as it has the tortured body of Jesus nailed to it.

An Agony cross has sharp points at the end of each arm. This is said to represent the suffering or agony, that Jesus endured. This cross is sometimes called a pointed cross or a cross of suffering.

A Portate cross is a cross that is angled diagonally. It’s angled the way someone would carry it over their shoulder to drag it.


References:

A Collection of Books

I love books! I am a big reader and have a large book collection at home, but I love finding stone books among the tombstones while wandering a cemetery. I find them very interesting and love trying to interpret what they mean.

Books can be both decorative or a representation of something. You can sometimes find a book being used as a decorative device to display the name of the deceased along with the birth and death dates. An open book can sometimes represent the human heart, as in it’s emotions are open to the world. An open book may also symbolize a life that has been cut short, before getting to the last page. Another variation of this is an open book with a cloth draped across it. This also represents a life cut short, the veil of death having bookmarked the person’s last chapter before the book is finished being written. A closed book might represent a long life, lived to the last chapter.

Any book found in a cemetery may represent the bible. Sometimes you may even find the words “Holy Bible” engraved on the book.

In my experience, books are not as common as some other funerary symbols, like hands and lambs. I love to photograph them when I do find them. I wanted to share some of my favorites with you today.


References:

  1. Understanding Cemetery Symbols: A Field Guide for Historic Graveyards by Tui Snider
  2. Stories in Stone: The Complete Guide to Cemetery Symbolism by Douglas Keister